Foto: Miltom Guran, 1978

Kamaiurá

  • Other names
    Kamayurá
  • Where they are How many

    MT467 (Ipeax, 2011)
  • Linguistic family
    Tupi-Guarani

Village

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The Kamaiurá village follows the upper Xinguan model, with houses arranged more or less in circular fashion, covered with sape grass, with a rounded roof that reaches to the ground. In the center of this circular space there is a patio or “plaza” (hoka´yterip) towards which all trails converge, leading both to the dwelling-places and the public spaces, and where the house of the flutes is built (tapuwí), crossed over the middle by the “path of the sun”. Instruments of notable importance in Kamaiurá culture, the flutes (jakui) can only be seen and touched by men.

In front of the house of the flutes and facing to the east, there is the bench for the smokers’ circle, where the men get together to tell about the happenings of the day or to discuss specific subjects – such as the preparation for a collective fishing expedition, participation in the building of a house, collective cleaning of the plaza, preparation for an upcoming festival, among other things.

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The center for information, public place, social and masculine par excelence, this plaza is the place where official messengers from other villages are received with public discourses, where the wrestling matches of the Huka-Huka, the intergroup cerimonies and the majority of the rituals and festivals of the village itself are held. It is also there that, among the men, food distribution (of fish, beiju, porridge, pepper, bananas) is done, generally in payment for services rendered (such as on the occason of a house-building or the burning, cleaning or community planting of a garden), or simply retribution from the “owner” of a festival for those who participated in it. It is even there that the dead are buried.

The house, on the other hand, is a relatively dark and private place, at the same time it is an open place and, fundamentally, the domain of the women and children. Various nuclear and related families live on the sides, while the center part is for shared use, where the cooking fires and food deposits are situated.

Beyond the circle of the houses, the forest and the river ports are reached by a network of trails cut through the low brush and which pass by small individual gardens. Places of privacy and of nightly amorous encounters par excelence, before all else, they open out to a hybrid world, where nature is saturated with supernatural beings and where man can “become an animal”, in the same way that a jaguar can appear to him suddenly “like a person, beautiful, and all decorated”, as they say. The forest is conceived of as a world of radical transformation and mystery; a liminal place, of the profane and sacred, of the known and the always strange and unknown.